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Meeting planned to discuss improvements to West Howard Avenue

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Meeting planned to discuss improvements to West Howard Avenue

The intersection of West Howard and Atlanta Avenue. Source: Google Maps

The intersection of West Howard and Atlanta Avenue. Source: Google Maps

The city of Decatur his hosting a meeting on Feb. 13 to discuss improvements to West Howard Avenue.

The meeting will be held in the community room of the city’s Public Works Department, located at 2635 Talley Street. It begins at 6 p.m. and ends at 7 p.m.

“Join us Tuesday, Feb. 13 for a community meeting where attendees will receive an update on the corridor improvements in anticipation of the 2017 DeKalb County [Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax] project at the Atlanta Avenue and West Howard Avenue intersection,” the event announcement says.

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City Manager Peggy Merriss said the recent passage of a county SPLOST to fund transportation projects will pay for a larger overhaul of the entire intersection.

“We will be moving forward with the ReImagine West Howard Avenue plans but with a less intensive treatment for the intersection at Atlanta Avenue due to the SPLOST project to reconstruct that intersection,” she said. “The number of lanes will be reduced to two with left turn off-sets at intersections. Five crosswalks will be upgraded and we will use planter boxes and other lower impact options to delineate lanes, in addition to re-striping with paint and thermoplastic.”

She said the West Howard plans are separate from plans to improve the road’s intersection with Atlanta Avenue.

“They are not the same,” Merriss said. “We started the ReImagine West Howard effort before the 2017 SPLOST effort got going with DeKalb County in order to address traffic calming on West Howard corridor from Commerce Drive to Paden Circle with a semi-permanent solution that could be incorporated into plans for rebuilding the Atlanta Avenue/West Howard/West College Avenue intersection if funding became available at some point in the future.

“Obviously the SPLOST initiative then got traction, and got approved by voters. The Atlanta Avenue Intersection is the primary transportation improvement project for the City of Decatur.  We still want to implement elements of the ReImagine West Howard project along the entire corridor primarily to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety knowing that the intersection improvements and then corridor improvements will likely take three years for planning, design, bidding and construction to take place. The intersection is a complex mix of roads, an existing multi-modal path, CSX railroad tracks and a U.S. highway that is under [the Georgia Department of Transportation’s] management. We want to move ahead with some corridor improvements in the interim time.”

She said the Atlanta Avenue project will involve a redesign and rebuild of the intersection at West Howard.

“It is a very extensive capital project on a larger scale than what was constructed recently at McDonough/Howard/College and Candler/Howard/College,” Merriss said.

So what can residents expect to see along West Howard in the short term?

“The next steps for Implementing the ReImagine West Howard will be to have a final meeting with the community group to give them an update,” Merriss said. “Then completing the design specifications, followed by awarding a contract that will include re-striping the traffic lanes from four lanes to two lanes with left turn lanes at intersections, upgrades to five crosswalks, and installation of planter boxes and other material to delineate the lanes.

“Generally and broadly the process for the Atlanta Avenue construction improvements would include securing the financing to fund the project and coordinating with GADOT and CSX Railroad, then selection of a planning firm that would organize community meetings that would result in a plan for what the new intersection would look like and what other improvements can be made. Then we would get the plan approved by the City Commission. Design of the improvements would follow with solicitation of [Request for Proposals] for the construction once the design and specifications are completed. There certainly may be interim activities and steps that will need to happen. As I have indicated, this is a complex capital improvement project.”

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